This was written some time ago, but thought I would post it now. Hope you enjoy!

Chapter 1

It was evening, and the Starfleet medical labs were mostly dark. All but the back office, where Beverly Crusher still labored over several padds. She sighed and pushed her hair out of her face and secured it with a clip. She really wanted to finish this report and get it to Dr. Nyland, who was meeting her at the administration building at 1950 hours.

Beverly had been at Starfleet Medical Headquarters for 4 weeks, lecturing on the removal of Borg implants. She was one of the few in the system who had the opportunity do so on a living patient. That patient was her best friend, Captain Jean Luc Picard, and it still bothered her to think of him in that state. However, the knowledge she gained needed to be shared, so she hid her discomfort and did her professional best.

The Enterprise E dropped her off at McKinley Station and was now returning. A number of the crew were also being picked up after shore leave, and another group were scheduled for a shorter leave. She and Jean Luc were on that rotation.

Beverly smiled as she thought of seeing him again. Her lectures were finished and she would be meeting him in Paris. A couple of days there for shopping and museums, then a visit to his home in LeBarre. She had been there before, of course, when Jean Luc's brother and nephew had died. She was hoping this would be a happier visit.

She leaned back in her chair, thinking about the comm message they had exchanged that morning. He was teasing her about something and they laughed together. She wanted to reach out and touch him through the view screen. Being away from the Enterprise made her realize how much a part of her life he was. Each of them had their own fears about changing their relationship to more than friends, but she realized that her apprehensions made the decision. She knew he loved her, known since Kes-Prytt, but was afraid to take the next step. She remembered when Jean Luc told her what Q had shown him—they would be married and subsequently divorced. Was that a real vision, or one of Q's manipulations? She didn't know, but had to admit it was a reason she was still hesitant to make a commitment.

Beverly made the last edits and prepared to leave. She grabbed her jacket and the padd and made her way to the admin building. The main door was locked, so she found a side entrance. On her way to the lift she noticed a light and the door ajar in one of the conference chambers. As walked by she heard voices, one soft, and the other louder, as if near the door.

"My dear admiral, the Son'a are prepared to share in this discovery, provided you can keep the Federation out of it until we have finished." The voice had an oily, menacing sound. Beverly heard only a muffled reply.

The voice continued, "The Ba'ku will not be injured in any way, but we must have complete control. We will be in a much stronger bargaining position to negotiate with the Federation once the exercise is complete. I think you will find your influence improved as well as your personal accounts. We are always grateful to our friends."

Beverly stood still, paralyzed by what she heard. An admiral making deals with people outside the Federation? Who was it? Who were the Son'a and the Ba'ku? She inched closer to the open door, to try to hear more clearly and identify the admiral's voice. Suddenly, a hand grasped her arm painfully, and spinning her around, she dropped the padd. She had a moment to look into a humanoid face, stretched to

distortion before a stun stick hit her. She slipped to the floor unconscious.

The commotion caused the Son'a and admiral to come into the hallway.

"She was listening to your conversation, Ru'afo," the Son'a guard said. "I found her as I was coming from checking the outside doors. I failed in my duty, sir." the guard hung his head.

The Son'a turned Beverly over with his toe, so her face was visible. The admiral gasped. "My god, that's Dr. Crusher. What's she doing here? If she heard us-"

"Don't worry, admiral. We will take care of the situation." the menace was back in the Son'a's voice.

The admiral shook his head, "You don't understand. She's a CMO on a starship, and one of the most recognized officers we have. If something happens to her, we'll have all of Starfleet breathing down our necks. I knew it was a mistake for you to come here."

Ru'afo contemplated. "I think the retraining center on Kelvos would meet the need." he said thoughtfully. "No one gets hurt, and the doctor won't remember a thing, even how she got there. She'll just disappear, and reappear. Nothing to tie us to it at all."

The admiral shook his head again. "I don't want to know. Just take care of it quietly. Remember, we've never met until we are ready to launch the plan."

"Understood, admiral." The Son'a gestured to his subordinate to pick Beverly up. "Three to return." The transporter shimmered and they were gone. The admiral glanced up and down the hallway and satisfied he was alone, headed for the nearest exit.